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How to Decide if Greek Life is Right for You Tips and Resources for Students and the Ins-and-Outs of Fraternity and Sorority Life

Though there are many clubs and activities on college campuses for students to get involved in, one of the popular choices is Greek Life, or joining a fraternity or sorority. The benefits of membership in on-campus Greek Life spans beyond college itself; a 2014 Gallup poll indicated that college graduates who were members of fraternities or sororities thrive professionally and personally more than those who were not members. Membership in a fraternity or sorority can involve time and monetary commitments that non-members do not have, but for many college students the benefits of having a close-knit community and home away from home outweigh the costs. Learn more about what “Going Greek” involves and the potential rewards and drawbacks that can come with membership.

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Pros and Cons of “Going Greek”

As with any major decision, joining a sorority or fraternity comes with both benefits and drawbacks. For example, some Greek societies may have dues of over $1,000 per semester; for budget-conscious students these costs are a significant factor to consider. However, that may be a worthwhile cost when the benefits of Greek Life—social and professional networking, leadership opportunities, and more—are taken into account.

PROS

Some students may feel isolated during their first year of college, and Greek Life can be an excellent way to make lasting friends and social connections.

Many Greek societies include philanthropy as part of their goals; for example, the Greek sororities that are members of the National Panhellenic Conference all have a community service component.

Students active in Greek Life have a variety of opportunities to learn leadership skills such as event organizing, public speaking and organizational budgeting.

Membership in a Greek society connects students and alums across the nation and across the world. Many Greek members can network professionally with their sorority sisters or fraternity brothers.

CONS

Depending on the individual Greek society and whether students live in the fraternity or sorority house, Greek membership can be costly.

Between chapter meetings, social events and formal ceremonies, Greek Life can require a significant amount of time commitment in members’ schedules.

Different Greek societies and universities often require students to maintain certain grades in order to pledge, to continue membership, and even to participate in certain Greek events.

Between Hollywood depictions and news headlines, some people may have negative preconceived notions about Greek Llife.

Fraternity and Sorority Fact vs. Fiction

Movies would have you believe Greek Life is mostly about partying, socializing and definitely not about succeeding academically or professionally. Although fraternities and sororities are social organizations at heart, the reality is much more complex. For instance, despite what myths imply, Business Insider reported in 2014 fraternity and sorority members tended to have higher graduation rates than average student populations.

Fact or Fiction?

Fraternities and sororities are just for partying.

While social events can be a significant part of Greek Life, they are far from the most important aspect of fraternity or sorority membership. In addition to the GPA requirements that most fraternities, sororities and colleges have for membership in a Greek society, fraternities and sororities host lectures, raise money for charities, perform community service, host group study sessions and provide members with many networking opportunities.

Fact or Fiction?

Members of Greek societies are not as serious about their studies as non-members.

Greek sorority or fraternity chapters typically have GPA requirements in place to assure members take their academics seriously, but even more importantly a 2014 Gallup poll demonstrated that members of Greek societies actually tend to have higher GPAs than non-members regardless of GPA requirements.

Fact or Fiction?

Fraternity and sorority members continue to benefit from Greek Life even after graduation.

A Gallup poll studying the post-college life of Greek society members revealed that fraternity and sorority members tend to be happier and more successful in their careers than average students. Additionally, many Greek society members are still friends with their fraternity brothers or sorority sisters’ years after graduation and continue to benefit from the networking opportunities their membership offers.

Fact or Fiction?

Sexual assault is a rampant issue in on-campus Greek organizations.

Sexual assault on college campuses and assaults related to the Greek system have gained national attention in recent years. Greek fraternities, sororities and panhellenic organizations are taking the issue extremely seriously; there are a variety of projects, initiatives and organizations dedicated to eradicating sexual assault from the Greek system such as the Fraternal Health and Safety Initiative and Consent Is So Frat.

Fact or Fiction?

Hazing continues to be a major issue in fraternities and sororities.

There are nationwide movements to limit and eventually end hazing in Greek and other sport and membership organizations. For example, 44 of the U.S. states have laws against hazing and the Fraternal Health and Safety Initiative, a consortium of nine different sororities and fraternities, offers resources on how to prevent and combat hazing. Many Greek societies have published zero-tolerance hazing policies and have taken significant steps to eliminate hazing altogether.

Types of Fraternities and Sororities, Requirements and Costs

Students who are deciding to rush may have dozens of different fraternities or sororities to choose from at their college. For example, some Greek societies are social while others are academic or professional, and there are a wide variety of types of involvement, housing opportunities and more. Students should learn what options they have when choosing the fraternity or sorority that best matches their needs and goals.

  • Social Fraternities & Sororities

    Social fraternities and sororities are the traditional Greek collegiate organization. Membership is dependent on pledging and focuses on creating close bonds of brotherhood or sisterhood between members.

  • Honor Societies

    Honor societies are frequently invitation-only and do not have the same rushing and pledging membership stages as social Greek organizations. Instead, honor societies are unions of academically high-achieving students and graduated alumni.

  • Professional Fraternities

    Members of professional fraternities are connected by common professional and academic interests, goals, and achievement. These organizations are often coed, meaning men and women can both be members of the same organization.

  • Service Fraternities & Sororities

    Service fraternities and sororities are organizations that focus on charity or other community-improvement work. They may or may not be associated with a college or university. Essentially, these groups combine elements of both social fraternities or sororities and professional fraternities.

  • Cultural Fraternities & Sororities

    Some Greek societies were founded to serve the needs of a specific ethnic or cultural group. Examples include the Divine Nine (nine historically Black fraternities and sororities), Jewish fraternities or sororities, and LGBTQ+ Greek societies.

  • Program-Specific Fraternities & Sororities

    Similar to professional fraternities, some colleges have Greek societies that are coordinated with a specific program, major or degree at that college or university. For example, Drake University’s chapter of Phi Delta Epsilon is part of a national social fraternity and simultaneously functions as a pre-medical fraternity at Drake.

  • Fraternity & Sorority Housing

    Fraternity and sorority houses are often the heart of the organization, functioning as the hub of activity and events. Living in a fraternity or sorority’s house can incur its own costs, but those costs might be cheaper than housing elsewhere or come with amenities that make the extra fees worthwhile.

  • Non-Greek Dormitory & Residence Halls

    Dormitories and residence halls are living options controlled by the college and unrelated to fraternities and sororities. However, Greek Life members who decide not to live in their chapter’s house can choose to live in the college’s dormitories. Fees are paid to the college regardless of Greek affiliation.

  • Off-Campus Housing

    Living off-campus means independently renting or leasing a living space that has no relation to Greek societies or the college itself. Not all fraternities or sororities have designated housing, and members may choose to live together in an unofficial off-campus location.

  • Chapter Meeting

    Chapter meetings are usually weekly and attendance is usually mandatory for active undergraduate members; some Greek societies may even fine members who do not attend.

  • Initiation and Pledge Ceremonies

    Ceremonies are an important aspect of fraternities and sororities because they often mark the formal admittance of a new brother or sister to the society. Ceremony attendance is often mandatory.

  • Socials & Formals

    Socials and formals are events that are (as their name implies) social in nature. They can be parties, dinners, dances and more; they may also involve other fraternities or sororities. Depending on the priorities of the specific fraternity or sorority, attendance for these events may be required.

  • Community Service

    Depending on the college and chapter, some fraternity or sorority members may be required to perform community service. For example, at the University of Arizona each chapter is required to have its members perform at least eight hours of community service each semester.

  • Fundraiser

    Fundraisers are typically charity events that raise awareness, funds or both for a specific organization that the sorority or fraternity has partnered with. While rules vary from chapter to chapter and campus to campus, attendance to fundraisers may be required for fraternity or sorority members.

  • Study Hours

    Some chapters have mandatory study hours, which can come in the form of group study sessions or independent work. While not all chapters have them, required study hours are a common tool used to assure members maintain the GPA required for membership.

  • Recruitment Fees

    The recruitment phase of joining a fraternity or sorority can cost over $100, depending on the fraternity or sorority, the college and the chapter itself.

  • Dues and Membership Fees

    Depending on the fraternity or sorority and the chapter these fees may be due annually or per semester; the fees themselves vary from chapter to chapter but can be hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year.

  • Gifts and Social Event Fees

    Membership in a fraternity or sorority can incur additional costs such as required gifts to new pledges and clothes for formal events.

Networking: How a Fraternity or Sorority Can Open Doors

Fraternity and sorority members have innumerable networking options with other members, which can lead to job opportunities, career advice and advancement and more. Students who choose to go Greek have exclusive access to a variety of resources and opportunities that non-Greeks cannot use. Read more to see some of these resources and tips on how to maximize the professional benefits of Greek Life.

  • Use Alumni Networks

    Alumni networks help current members of fraternities and sororities connect with members who have already graduated. Networks may exist at a chapter level—specific to one college or university—or at a national level.

  • Join Online Networks

    Fraternities and sororities often have groups with professional networking services such as LinkedIn and inCircle. Greek society members can join their society’s group to connect online with other current members as well as alumni.

  • Attend Chapter and National Events

    Campus chapters sometimes organize events and guest lectures which give members opportunities to network with fellow campus members, with chapter alumni, and even professionals in various fields who have been invited to the events. Nationally, fraternities and sororities organize similar events at a larger level and with even more networking opportunities.

  • Seek Leadership Experience and Opportunities

    Chapter leaders in Greek societies not only learn important skills but also make connections outside of their fraternity or sorority chapter through regional meetings. They additionally have networking opportunities with leaders of their society’s national organization.

Networking Resources

  • Gamma Sigma Alpha

    Gamma Sigma Alpha is an academic honor society for fraternity and sorority members. In addition to offering recognition for academic achievement, membership in Gamma Sigma Alpha can give members opportunities to network with fellow Greeks outside of their own Greek society.

  • Greek Ladders

    A networking tool that connects Greek members in addition to providing resources for career success and advancement. Fraternity and sorority members can use Greek Ladders to network with other Greek members or alumni.

  • Lambda 10

    Lambda 10 is a Greek fraternity and sorority initiative dedicated to promoting LGBTQ+ acceptance within Greek societies. Fraternities and sororities that have joined Lambda 10’s Greek Ally network can provide members with resources and opportunities to connect with other Greek Ally fraternities and sororities.

  • North-American Interfraternity Conference (NIC)

    The NIC has recently reframed its goals and priorities into what the organization calls “NIC 2.0.” The organization plans to become a hub of resources, education and fraternal community building.

  • Order of Omega

    An organization that honors leaders of fraternities and sororities for their commitment and hard work. The Order of Omega facilitates inter-Greek communication and gives members opportunities to network with fellow Greeks from various societies and chapters.

Expert Advice: Should I Choose Greek Life?

Jennifer “JJ” Jones is the Executive Director of Student Life at Southern Methodist University. Additionally, she is the 33rd President of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, a cooperative organization consisting of the Divine Nine Historically Black fraternities and sororities. JJ has also served on the Circle of Sisterhood’s Board of Trustees.

Do you have any advice for students trying to pick which fraternity/sorority to join?

Students need to do their research on all of the organizations and match their values with those of the organization.

What benefits are there to joining a fraternity or sorority?

The brotherhood and sisterhood it fosters, being part of something larger than yourself that services others is very rewarding, the networking aspect, the difference the larger Greek community makes in our world.

What can new members do to get the most out of their Greek Life experience?

Live out your oath.

Hollywood and some other mainstream media portray Greek Life as party-focused and academically unproductive. Do you have any wisdom for individuals concerned about these perceptions?

Seek to counter those negative perceptions with all of the good the organizations are doing. Look at the great things some of our notable members are doing. Stop watching reality TV.